Saturday, July 13, 2024

Favorite Comics Media

 

From left: Pentel Pocket Brush pen, F-C Pitt Artist Pen, Pitt Dual Tip marker,
three Sharpie Creative Markers

As I’ve fully embraced my on-location comics approach the past few months, I’ve also experimented with a variety of media to best express this different way of seeing and telling stories. I seem to have settled into a set of favorites, so I thought it would be a good time to document them here.

First of all, there’s Uglybooks. The bold, strong colors of these sketchbooks immediately give my comics a graphical background that suits the form well. I’ve occasionally used white sketchbooks when using color seemed important to the subject. For the most part, though, Uglybooks are ideal. (I’ll be talking more about how my choice of Uglybooks sets the stage for color in a future post.)

For basic contour outlines and panel frames, I alternate between two go-to’s: I adore my original Pentel Pocket Brush Pen, which is probably one of my oldest sketch tools that I’m still using. By contrast, I only began using Faber-Castell Pitt Dual Tip Markers around the time I started making comics, and they also became a fast favorite. The former makes a beautiful, organic line that I especially appreciate when drawing trees, people, animals and other natural subject matter. The Pitt Dual Tip, by contrast, makes a sharp, hard line that imparts the graphical look of comics that I also like. It’s especially suitable for buildings and other human-made structures. The fine tip is relatively bold when drawing on a small, A6-size page, yet fine enough for details and lettering. The brush tip on the other side lays down a heavy block of color easily, which I appreciate. It’s an excellent combo pen.

The Pentel Pocket and the Pitt Dual are opposites, really, and that’s why I need both.

An important member of the monochrome part of the team is a Cold Gray III Pitt Artist Brush Pen, which I find essential for shading.

From left: a secondary triad of water-soluble Derwent Inktense and Caran 
d'Ache Museum Aquarelles; four Cd'A Luminance non-soluble pencils

As for color, that has become a complicated matter. Usually this time of year, I am happily playing with summer primary triads, studying color temperature or even messing with watercolors. This is my least colorful summer ever, and I miss color! Yet small panels of comics aren’t conducive to color mixing, and there’s no room for anything but tiny spot colors. I’ve been using opaque acrylic markers sparingly to fill the bill.

With such a focus on pens, I also miss my pencils! Looking for ways to scratch both my color itch and my pencil itch, I’ve lately been using a small selection of Caran d’Ache Luminance colored pencils. Among the most opaque in my colored pencil collection, Luminance can stand up to the strong colors of Uglybooks sketchbooks. Even so, they are less aggressive than acrylic markers, and sometimes I want a more subtle bit of color that can be modulated (compared to acrylic markers, which have no volume control other than loud). (In that future post, I’ll be talking more about techniques I’m using with colored pencils on brightly colored pages.)

As for my long-time favorite watercolor pencils, I still keep a basic secondary triad of Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelles and Derwent Inktense in my bag for the occasional times when nothing will do except full-on, big color. I took most out, though, because water-soluble media really aren’t compatible with Uglybooks paper. However, I’m not sad about letting most of them go, because this change has enabled me to use more Luminance pencils, which I have long regretted not putting to better use. Now they have a chance to be my daily-carry, which hasn’t ever happened before!

Of course, the most crucial player on this team is the opaque white pen – many of which I have been auditioning the past few months and most of which I have swiftly rejected. The favorite would have been the Sharpie Creative Marker with brush tip, which I like for its pastel colors as well as white – until the all-important white one broke. Loathe to buy a whole ‘nother set of 12 just for the white, I’ve given up on white pens (for now).

In fact, I have gone back to my roots: white colored pencils. Although they aren’t quite as bright and opaque as white acrylic paint or gel ink, they are close. More important, they are consistently reliable, require no shaking or priming, and never blob, skip, clog or explode. Ahh, pencils, you’ve saved me again!

Two of my favorite white colored pencils: Prismacolor and Derwent Drawing

As much as I miss having more and bigger colors to play with, I adore using this simple, slim kit that fits well in my small everyday-carry bag. For now, it suits my comics-focused approach. (Examples of how I like to use my favorite comics media are shown below.)

The brush and medium points on the Pitt Dual Tip Marker are ideal for both blocks of broad background color and spot color.

Pentel Pocket Brush Pen for people

Pitt Dual Tip Marker for architecture and other hard-edged, human-made subjects

Elegant, organic marks for trees using the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen

Opaque acrylic markers and colored pencils that can hold their own against Uglybooks' strong colors.

Friday, July 12, 2024

Edmonds Summer Market

 

7/6/24 Edmonds Summer Market

Years, maybe decades, ago, I recall going to the Edmonds Summer Market, when it seemed like a small-townish farmers market. With so many other farmers markets nearby, I didn’t see a reason to drive all the way up to Edmonds. While much of Edmonds still retains its small-town feeling (street parking is still free), its farmers market is all growed up – I’d heard it was now larger than many Seattle farmers markets. It was time to check it out, and I invited a few sketcher friends to join me.

Indeed, the one-block affair had stretched around a corner and down another block. In addition to produce, the vendor booths offered jewelry and other handmade items, gluten-free, keto-friendly baked goods, gourmet honeys, exotic mushrooms, colorful bouquets, and much more. The scents of kettle corn, pizza, corn dogs, tamales, and mini donuts gave off a state fair vibe. I even found a busker (Hannah gave out rubber duckies to kids when they stopped by)!

The kettle corn popper was wearing a long-sleeved, solid black shirt in the blazing sun! 

Mark, Roy, Janet and me keeping cool in Edmonds!

Most unusual was spotting Mike Rosen, Edmonds’ mayor, at a small booth with a sign inviting visitors to “Ask the Mayor.” How’s that for small-town flavor?

Our first heatwave of the summer was still just picking up speed, so the whole morning was comfortable, especially with that continual Puget Sound breeze. The Edmonds Summer Market was certainly worth the drive up, and I plan to do it again before the summer’s over.

Thursday, July 11, 2024

The Seattle Sketcher’s Path through Ballard

 

7/3/24 Ballard

Back in March, Gabi Campanario published a fun feature in The Seattle Times for a special section about the Ballard neighborhood. (Seeing it made me miss his Seattle Sketcher column all over again.) Walking the mile or so from the Locks to the Marvin’s Garden Centennial Bell Tower, he made 11 sketches of notable attractions and historic points along the way. His hand-drawn map with the locations called out made it easy to follow his route. Ever since I saw the article, I’d been wanting to take that literal sketchwalk myself, but I had waited for warmer, drier weather. In the meantime, I started talking to other sketchers who might be up for doing it with me. They had to be both fit for the walk and relatively fast sketchers, since we had a lot of ground to cover – and Roy and MaryJean were in!

Ballard Locks

Reversing Gabi’s route, we started at the Bell Tower (since campanario means bell tower in Spanish, I thought it was appropriate to begin at “the Ballard campanario” in Gabi’s honor) and ended at the Locks. Though we didn’t get to all 11 sketches as Gabi did (and if the truth were known, I bet he didn’t do them all in one day!), we did get to eight – not bad for amateur sketch journalists!

7/3/24 Kiss Cafe, Ballard

Halfway through, we stopped for lunch at the Kiss Café, which Roy and I had discovered the month before with Kim. (And like that time with Kim, Roy ordered bread pudding for dessert and shared it – this time with whiskey ice cream instead of vanilla!)

Ballard Locks

MaryJean had to leave before we got to the end, but Roy and I carried on through the afternoon. We all had so much fun that we’re inspired to make up our own sketchwalks of other areas before we run out of good weather this year!


Roy and MaryJean are holding the original article that Gabi published in the Times, the source of our inspiration.

Roy and I carried on at the Locks!

Process notes: Although I had sketched most of these scenes before, it was surprising to find that my comics approach made the familiar seem fresh again. Instead of leisurely rendering in color as I did Frankie Feetsplinters last October or the Salmon Bay Bridge nearly every time I’ve visited the Locks, my goal was to make simplified panels like a sequential comic strip, scene by scene. While the actual sequence wasn’t important for the story, together the panels express the passage of time over the course of one day, sketching with good company.

Material notes: I used to think A5-ish sized Uglybooks inlandscape format would not be conducive to sketching while standing. However, I wanted a long, horizontal format to evoke the passage of time from left to right the way a comic strip does, so I gave it a try. With one side folded back, I hardly noticed a difference from my usual A6 size. (I had tried it in Portland in the vertical direction, and that had been a bit more awkward to hold.) When I have longer stories to tell – like ones that take all day to sketch! – I’m going to use the larger size.

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Ballard Blocks

 

7/1/24 Ballard neighborhood, mostly viewed from Top Pot

The west edge of Ballard near the Lake Washington Ship Canal is a part of the neighborhood that I rarely get to except when I go there for my annual routine mammogram. After my appointment, I thought I’d walk in the more industrial direction and stop for a coffee and a sketch along the way, but none of the cafes I passed had outdoor seating for the beautiful, sunny day. (I was also doing reconnaissance on free parking options for future reference.) By the time I got to the Ballard Blocks, I was hot, so Top Pot Doughnut’s AC was more appealing than an outdoor table. The iced latte hit the spot.

As in many Seattle neighborhoods, this area of Ballard exhibits a familiar mix of nice, older homes, upscale condos and apartments, gritty industry, trendy retail shops, and shabby recreational vehicles housing residents who are probably not enjoying recreation. Eating my Summer Limited Edition Blueberry Glazed Pot Holes while sketching in air-conditioned comfort, I pondered my privilege.

Tuesday, July 9, 2024

Rip’s View of U-District Skyline

 

7/1/24 U-District skyline

After I was vaccinated and started getting back out into the world again, one of my biggest Rip Van Winkle moments was when I visited the U-District. It was astonishing how many buildings had been torn down with new ones taking their place, just since the pandemic had begun. Now, three years later, most of those new skyrises are done.

I had another Rip moment last week when I walked from the Wallingford neighborhood to the U-District on Northeast 45th. When I reached the entrance to Interstate 5, the U-District’s skyline rose fully into view: It looked like a second downtown! This time, after Rip’s nap, he had awakened in a new city.

I’m still working on trying to ID the new profiles that are unfamiliar to me, like the twin buildings with an S logo.

Technical note: I prefer to draw skylines in a single horizontal line to emphasize their length, but I wasn’t prepared: It hadn’t occurred to me to bring one of my many landscape-format sketchbooks for this walk! Splitting the skyline in half would have to do. Although I tried to keep relative heights accurate, I had to compress the horizontal spaces between buildings to make them all fit.

Monday, July 8, 2024

White Party, Part 3: Acrylic and Other Markers

 

As expected, lots of white party poopers

Opaque white pens: The bane of my sketching existence.

Intermittently during my 13 years of sketching, I’ve tried various white gel pens for those infrequent occasions when I want to make white lettering on a sketch or draw thin highlights. Though not without its faults, the Sakura Gelly Roll has long been my standby. The past year, however, as colored Uglybooks gradually took dominance over my urban sketching materials, white became increasingly important – not just for occasional writing with a fine line, but also for coloring in large blocks of sky. A full-on hunt commenced.

My first glint of optimism was for the Omiowl acrylic dual-tip marker, which was unfortunately short-lived (literally). I like the paint it contains, but the pen, as inexpensive as it is in a bulk pack, is not a good value.

Shown in this post are the others I’ve been trying since then. I’m not bothering to write individual reviews because most can be cast aside without fuss – only one (or possibly two) is worth paying attention to. So this review post will save you time (of reading full reviews) as well as money.

Swatches made in black Uglybook sketchbook

First, let’s get the white party poopers over with. The Deleter Neopiko 0.5mm is the same as the Uni Posca 0.7mm – except worse. See that messy blob on my swatch page? Yeah – that’s what pumping does when the paint won’t flow. (Ironically, the Posca that I had been cursing for being clogged up decided to put out decent lines on my swatch page, just to be contrary.)

I was excited about the Kuretake Zig Cartoonist brush pen, which has a unique twisting mechanism to make the pigment-based ink flow. I like the dry brush effects possible, and its opacity is better than most I tried. Unfortunately, even when recapped religiously, the brush tip seems to dry out easily, which means that when fresh ink is pumped out, it’s like painting with a half-dried-out paint brush. I suppose it needs to be cleaned off completely like a paint brush, but at $14, I don’t want high maintenance on top of high cost.

The Shuttle Art Tempera paint stick is unique in this comparison in that it’s not an ink at all – more like a solid, oil-pastel-like substance. But unlike oil pastels, it dries immediately and is no longer sticky – like a roll-on paint that dries fully. I like it a lot, but it’s impossible to draw fine marks or color small areas with its broad, flat tip (I cut it into a point in my photo), which is intended for kids. Sadly, my small A6-ish format sketchbook just isn’t big enough for such a broad tool, but it would be great with a larger drawing. It’s only available in a set of 15 or more colors.

The Pentel Milky Brush is OK when applied, and the brush doesn’t dry out like the Zig’s, but like most acrylic markers, it requires pumping and shaking. Nothing new here (and also a bit pricey).


White Sharpie: Good coverage, and layering 
increases opacity; I like the variation when sketching clouds.

Now I’ll get to the only two markers worth using in this batch. My hands-down favorite is the Sharpie Creative Marker with brush tip, which I learned about from urban sketcher Rob Deane, who also uses toned papers and therefore uses a lot of white. It requires some shaking, but no priming, and the paint flows evenly and smoothly every time – no blobs or clogging. (Ana at the Well-Appointed Desk gave a full review of these Sharpie markers recently, and she likes them, too.)

It has only two drawbacks: For my uses, the tip of the brush is fine, but not quite fine enough to write with (like the Posca 0.7mm or a Gelly Roll). Overall, however, the Sharpie’s brush tip has a good range from fine to broad (shown on my swatch page) that meets most of my needs.

Bright contrast from other Sharpie colors

The second drawback is that I had to buy a pack of 12 colors to get the white, which is the only one I really wanted. Despite that, I’m having fun using the other colors, especially the pastels. Picking out just one or two colors that contrast strongly with whatever Uglybook color I’m currently using has become a fun part of my process.

If I hadn’t met Sharpie Creative Markers, I would have picked Utillo acrylic paint markers as my top choice (I bought a mixed pack of all-white fine and medium tips, which doesn’t seem to be available currently). I balked at yet another bulk pack, but this one seems to be a good value in that the pens have already outlived the Omiowl. They require shaking, but no priming, and they are as well-behaved as the Sharpies. The fine (0.7mm) is finer than the very tip of the Sharpie, but I’d have to carry two Utillo pens to get both a fine and a broad, so the Sharpie is still more versatile.

Another good option: Utillo acrylic marker

There you have it – the party poopers and the stars!

(If you’re wondering about the previous White Parties, they were all about colored pencils and water-soluble colored pencils.) 

Addendum: This post was written and scheduled to go live, and the day before, this happened: Standing on the sidewalk sketching, I tried to pull the cap off the Sharpie, which seemed to be stuck. It suddenly released – but it wasn’t the cap that came off; it was the entire nib unit, which broke off the barrel! Now the nib is stuck inside the cap, and even if I figure out how to get it out, I’m afraid it will never seal properly with the paint unit again. I knew that terrific pen had to be too good to be true.

Broken where the nib unit attaches to the barrel. 

Sunday, July 7, 2024

Breeze and Brews Keep Sketchers Cool

 

7/5/24 Project 9 Brewing Co.

On the first day of our heatwave, a few members of USk Seattle gathered at Project 9 Brewing Company for a drink & draw. Although the temps were in the mid-80s by late afternoon, a decent breeze on the well-shaded north side of the brewery kept us relatively comfortable (aided by good brews).


It was a fun evening of chat about art, art materials and even knitting, as almost all of us were or used to be knitters. Bonus (for me): Several dogs were present at the pet-friendly venue, including cooperative model Pine, who was part of our party.

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